Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Why a New Facebook Feature Means It’s Time To Get Serious About Blog Images and OpenGraph

Monday, June 24th, 2013

New Facebook feature which allows Pages to upload content preview imageOver the last couple of weeks, Facebook has been quietly rolling out a new feature to Facebook Page admins that is going to force content creators to start seriously thinking about their use of imagery and Open Graph protocol on their content.

What It Does

The feature, which I just discovered this past Friday allows Page admins to disregard the images suggested by Facebook for a shared piece of content and instead upload an image of their own.  The feature is useful, especially for folks trying to make their Page content look as presentable as possible even if they are sharing from another source.  Where this will be most handy however is when content creators refuse to use imagery in their content and Facebook shares are left with generic imagery from the website.

Why Images Are Important

Imagery not only helps to visualize your content to viewers, it can also help to break up large blocks of content and make your content easier to read.  We are a generation of skimmers, very few people read web copy these days, instead they skim to digest what they can out of content.  Images can help to break up content and make it easier to skim.

If that wasn’t enough, social media has made us an extremely visual culture.  Sites like Facebook and Google+ are automatically pulling imagery from your website to help make content shared on their sites more appealing, so why not make sure its an image that makes sense with your content as opposed to an ad or some other random image off of your website.

By adding relevant imagery you can not only make the content on your site more engaging, but you increase the probability that users who see your content on social networks will click through and view your content.

Adopting the Open Graph

The Open Graph protocol has been used by Facebook for a few years now.  Like the structured markup that can help local SEO, it is a means of helping machines and systems, in this case Facebook, understand more about your content.  With Open Graph you can tell Facebook specifically what the title of your content is, what description to use when it displays your content, and best of all what image it should use when people share your content on Facebook.

By telling Facebook what title, description, and image to use with your content when it’s shared, the odds of people seeing your content exactly as you want it represented when seen on Facebook is that much greater.  Even if you’re using images in your content, this ensures that Facebook can properly access the imagery and use it alongside your content.

This weekend I tried to share a piece of content from a site that was using images in its content, but for some reason the main image that was most relevant to the post wasn’t suggested as an option from Facebook, instead it was pulling irrelevant imagery found in the sidebar of the page.  Had the site been using Open Graph I wouldn’t have had to upload the picture myself before sharing it on my Page.

Image options for the content before and after

Implementing Open Graph

There are a number of ways to integrate and implement the Open Graph protocol into your content.  If you have to hard code the tags into each piece of content I would highly recommend Neil Patel’s piece on social media meta tags.  On the other hand, if you’re a WordPress user like me, you can simply install WordPress SEO by Yoast.  It not only gives you a ton of great SEO functionality, but has Open Graph protocol features built into it that can help ensure your content is seen properly by Facebook.

TL;DR What You Need To Know

  • Facebook is rolling out a new feature that allows Page admins to upload an image of their choice to represent content they share on their page
  • If you want your content to be properly represented visually on social networks you need to make sure you are using images in your content
  • If you want to make sure Facebook is using the right images for your content implement the Open Graph protocol on your content to help Facebook identify the right image to use for your content when its shared
  • If you don’t take this seriously, Pages can choose imagery for your content that may not align with the message or theme you were hoping to convey

Four Automated Sources for Content Curation and Inspiration

Monday, February 11th, 2013

For as long as I have blogged I have struggled with one particular aspect of the process; coming up with topics.  It’s a pretty crucial step and yet its probably the most difficult for me.  Its why I don’t stick to a schedule on any of my blogs and its why I don’t participate in the guest post circuit much.  With that said, I recognize inspiration when I see it, which is why I authored 500+ Blog Topics for the Blogger That’s Stuck back in 2010 and Blog Post Ideas In Unlikely Places in 2011.  But in both those posts you had to go out and do some legwork to find the inspiration.  What if you wanted some regular content for curation or inspiration delivered straight to your inbox?  Here are four tools I use regularly that will give you just that.

Top Tweets and Stories Daily Digest

When Twitter acquired Summify it integrated the Summify content aggregation feature into its service in the form of Top Tweet and Story digests.  If you follow your peers and industry leaders on Twitter these digests can be a great resource of some of the most popular content being shared and talked about by the people you follow.  In Twitter’s notification settings you can choose to receive digests daily or weekly.  The daily digest will be emailed to you on a daily basis and include about eight pieces of content that were the most popular among the people you follow.

Twitter Top Tweets and Stories Digest Email

The best part is that the digest not only showcases some of the hot content among those you follow, but it allows you to reply, retweet, or favorite directly from the email.  You can also click to view individual related tweets on Twitter.  This is a great resource for not only catching up on popular content, but for engaging the people you follow.

Feedera

Feedera is another form of Twitter digest that you can setup to email you daily.  But what sets Feedera apart is that the digest is divided into the categories photos, articles, videos, and music.  This provides a unique opportunity to curate and be inspired by different types of media being shared by the people you follow on twitter.

Feedera Digest Email

Feedera also comes with a lot of customization options including the size of digest (you can receive up to 100 items in your email), the order in which the content displays, and the total number of each content type you want to see in your digest.  As an added bonus it also allows you to ignore content from certain domains or users so that it doesn’t show up in your digest.  I’ve used Feedera for some time now and the only frustration I have with it is that the email format is inferior to some of the other services I use or have used.  Oftentimes it will also struggle with generating the link to the content and will just show the title and description of the homepage of the site and link to it, which forces you to have to click through to the actual status to see what was shared.

News.me

News.me is one of the newer tools in my arsenal, but so far I have been pleased with it.  The nice thing about News.me is that it not only captures content from Twitter, but also Facebook.  The email format is very clean and easy to skim and you can choose to receive five, ten, or fifteen items per email.

News.me Digest Email

An added benefit of News.me is that if you’re like me and favorite tweets that you want to revisit later there is a setting that can include tweets you favorite in your daily digest.  The only downside I have found to News.me at this point is that the digest is the only one I have seen so far that tends to provide overlapping content found in other digests.

Plinky

Mosty of the tools I have mentioned up until this point have been good for both inspiration and curation, but Plinky is one tool that is all about the inspiration.  With the tagline, “Because sometimes you need a push,” Plinky was designed to get people talking.  Each day it provides a new prompt such as question, or a challenge and gives you the opportunity to answer.

When I started using Plinky in 2009 I was answering questions like, “Name three songs you’d put on a road trip mix tape,” or “When did you realize you were an adult?”  The prompts were less though provoking and most of the content I created on the site or saw friends create was mindless dribble at best.  Thankfully over the last few years the site has matured a bit and with it so have the prompts.  The questions these days are more thought provoking and force users to really put some thought into their answers.

Plinky Prompts Email

Plinky is designed to have you visit the site and share your answer to the days prompts directly from your Plinky profile.  You can then share your response on Facebook or Twitter.  If you’re looking for social engagement this may be a great opportunity, but you can take Plinky’s prompts a step further and use them as inspiration for blog posts, social updates, and the like.  Take the prompt from Plinky and turn the answer into a blog post on your own site.  You could leave it at that, or you could even visit Plinky and leave a brief response with a link back to your post.

So there you have it.  A little inspiration automation that will deliver some content love to your inbox daily.  If you struggle with coming up with content for your blog or social presence then hopefully these digests will give you some opportunities to generate some new content that will resonate with your audience without having to rack your brain too hard.

If you’re an inbox zero kind of person and don’t want to add to your daily email load you may be able to create a similar strategy using apps like Flipboard, Zite, or Google Currents.  These would create feeds or digests of content from users, topics, or resources you choose but in the form of an app.  I tried this for a bit, but much like Google Reader I found myself getting overwhelm with having too much content to consume on a daily basis.

Why NetworkedBlogs May Not Be the Best Way To Push Your Blog’s Content to Facebook

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

NetworkedBlogsThere are a number of free services available to push your blog traffic to Facebook, and an array of other social networks.  One of the more popular services that I have not only used, but recommended in the past was NetworkedBlogs.  NetworkedBlogs is an extremely popular app used by a number of professional and amateur bloggers to not only push their content to Facebook, but to connect with their other favorite blogs via Facebook. Overall it’s a great service, the problem lies in how the app delivers blog content to Facebook from your blog.

NetworkedBlogs uses iFrame’s to deliver blog content from the app in both user streams and within the app itself.  You may recall a while back that both DIgg and HootSuite took heat for similar practices because people felt the social media giants were stealing site traffic and keeping users within their own site.  Though this is a practice that has been frowned upon time and again, NetworkedBlogs seems to continue doing it without a blink of an eye.  Digg eventually did way with their culprit the “Diggbar” and HootSuite eventually gave their users the option of using a Ht.ly toolbar for links shortened in HootSuite, or the Ow.ly option which would redirect to the long URL.

Why Are iframes Bad?

The problem with iframes are that they place your content within the confines of another website. This creates issues when people link to or share your content. Oftentimes they will reference the URL in the address bar alone, and not think to link to the original content. This means that any links built to the content in the iframe will pass value to the site framing the content, and not the original content creator. And even scarier, if the site providing the iframe or shortened URL shuts down, so does that link to your web content.

What’s the Alternative?

There are a number of alternatives out there if you are looking for something to simply feed your content to Facebook once it goes live.  I recently started using dlvr.it to feed not only to Facebook, but also to Twitter.  Another popular alternative is RSSGraffiti, which I am seeing more websites use as an alternative.  There are a number of alternatives on the market both in the form of Facebook or web app as well as WordPress plugins. The key is to look for services that will redirect you to your website’s full URL and not rely on iframes to deliver your content.

Already using a service to send your blog updates to Facebook or another social network? Share your favorite service in the comments below!

Don't Update Your WordPress Blog? Don't Expect A Blessing From the Search Engines

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

When dealing with search engines it’s important to remember that their job is to serve the consumer, the person searching for content online.  In doing so they want to provide them with the most relevant, most trusted, and most reliable source related to their query.  Part of that trust and reliability comes from knowing that the consumer won’t be harmed when visiting a website.  It’s because of this that Google has implemented tools in Google Webmaster Tools to notify you if your site is infected with Malware and more recently notifying webmasters that they need to upgrade their WordPress version.  But could it hurt your search engine rankings?

Wordpress Update Notification in Webmaster Tools

While I won’t say that having an outdated WordPress blog is going to tank your rankings, it’s definitely a concern in the eyes of the search engines.  Why else would the Google Search Quality Team send out notifications like the one above?  Wordpress sites are known to be popular targets for hackers and this is known by the search engines.  If they have the option to display a site that is running current, secure software over a site that is running outdated vulnerable software, which do you think will come out on top if all other factors are equal?

By not updating your blog software you give search engines the impression that your site isn’t maintained or that you don’t care about the usability and security of your site and it’s users.  Though a perception, it could be a problem for you in the long run.  Especially as the search engines look to trust factors more and more.

How to Keep Your WordPress Blog Up To Date

WordPress notifies you in the WordPress Dashboard if a new version of WordPress is available.  From there you can download WordPress and update your blog manually.  Another option is WordPress Automatic Upgrade, which is installed on all blogs designed by Plastic Surgery Studios.  This plugin allows you to easily backup your existing blog files and download and install the latest version of WordPress simply by following the on page prompts within the WordPress Dashboard.

Sometimes updating a WordPress blog can run you into some problems, even if you are using a plugin like WordPress Automatic Upgrade.  For those of you who just don’t have time to mess with it, or are afraid of breaking your blog Plastic Surgery Studios offers blog maintenance as a means of keeping your WordPress blog up to date.  For more information contact your Internet Marketing Consultant.

Blog Post Ideas In Unlikely Places

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

If you’ve followed my blogging for any amount of time, here or at any of the 3 other websites I manage you’ll know that consistency is a problem for me. It’s not that I’m not dedicated or I don’t have time to write, it’s that I have trouble establishing topics. More times than not, because of my schedule, some other blogger beats me to the punch, or I simply can’t find inspiration, hence my 500+ Blog Topics post last year. However, what I am finding is that oftentimes blog topics appear in unexpected places when we’re not looking for them.

Newsletters

We all have interests outside of our work. One interest I am particularly passionate about is music. A few months back I was reading an e-newsletter from CMT and saw a short bit on a music video by Colt Ford that parodied the movie Twilight. In this moment I was doing nothing more than reading for pleasure, but in the end I had fodder for a blog post that wound up being fairly popular on a Twilight blog I help manage. This particular situation was also inspiration for this post.

Magazines & Newspapers

Though many believe print media is a dying breed, most of us still read magazines or newspapers; in line at the grocery store, in the waiting room at the doctor, or through subscriptions to our home or office. Print media is a great place to find ideas for blog posts. First, in many cases print articles are not duplicated online, which allows you to talk about an article that an online audience may not have read. Second you can report on the article and site it as a resource. Many trade publications post statistics or data that you may be able to discuss on your blog and site the print content as your source. Dying or not, magazines and other print sources can often feed a strong blog post.

Television & Radio

Another dying breed thanks to streaming video and the DVR, television and radio can offer a lot of great opportunities or inspiration, especially news casts. If you watch local news or listen to local radio keep your ears peeled for any information that may be useful to discuss or share in a blog post or even social media update. Again, this information is only being fed to a select audience and your insight or recap can capture additional audiences.

As a blogger you are surrounded by blog post ideas, being conscious of potential blog post opportunities when going about your daily life can be fruitful when it comes time to brainstorm that next blog topic.